Audio Preservation

The audio preservation program addresses the task of safeguarding The New York Public Library’s collection of sound recordings through a multifaceted approach of physical treatment and reformatting. The audio preservation staff utilize a variety of physical treatments, including cleaning, repair, stabilization, and re-housing to promote both optimal signal extraction and the long-term safety of the sound carriers themselves. The media on which sound recordings are produced often are composed of materials that are both physically vulnerable and chemically unstable. Treatments are performed on a many types of carriers including recordings made of wax compounds, cellulose-acetate, cellulose-nitrate, shellac compounds, metals and metal oxides, paper, polyester and a variety of plastics.

The audio preservation facilities are professionally equipped to accommodate the preservation reformatting needs of a wide range of current and obsolete audio formats, as well as to produce archival-quality digital preservation masters and requisite technical metadata. The audio labs, program activities, and workflows are designed to meet the preservation reformatting guidelines and best practices established by the International Association of Sound and Audiovisual Archives (IASA) and the Audio Engineering Society (AES).

The audio preservation program also produces derivative recordings from its preservation masters. These derivatives function as listening copies, allowing researchers to explore the content of the Library’s historic collection of recorded sound, while at the same time posing no risk to the preservation masters or to the source recordings. These access recordings are available to the public through venues including on-site listening facilities, the Library’s exhibition and public program series, and -- when rights and permissions allow it -- via the web on  A fee-based duplication service is also carried out in the labs and is available for a limited number of recordings in the Library’s audio collection; rights and permissions must be secured in advance through the curatorial units.

Staff in the audio preservation program also engage in education and outreach to students and professionals, respond to reference inquiries, and serve on committees of national and international organizations concerned with the preservation of recorded sound.